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Is Your New Office Coffee Maker a Security Threat?

One day last year, large numbers of the US’ favorite Internet sites went dark; Spotify, Reddit, Airbnb, Etsy and even Twitter went down, victims of a huge DDOS attack.

This is, unfortunately, not that unusual, it happens with increasing frequency. What was different however was that when the tech ‘post-mortem’ on the situation was completed it was reported that the hackers had used the Internet of Things to wreak their havoc.

That means they tapped into hundreds of cameras, coffee makers, web cams, DVRs, surveillance cameras, routers anything with Internet connectivity they could get their hands on became a security threat. Without their owners knowing anything about it, these devices then unleashed a flood of overwhelming internet traffic that took down all these sites.

The Growth of the Internet of Things

A lot has been written and discussed about the ‘Internet of Things’ over the last few years, but many people outside of the tech community have not really taken too much notice. The current industry prediction is that by 2020 (and that’s just three years away), there will be over twenty billion devices will be connected to networks worldwide.

This includes not just cameras but also things like the smart thermostat that keeps the office at just the right temperature, coffee makers networked to the office front door or your phone so hot coffee is waiting upon your arrival, and fridges that send you smart phone reminders to order grocery items in short supply.

All of this is great, the vision of the world of The Jetsons is finally shaping up in reality. But there is a downside. All these gadgets represent a possible security threat. Many do not have any security built in at all, and often even if they do owners often neglect those security features. Often factory-set passwords like 0000 or 1234 are never changed, so millions of devices end up with the same easy-to-guess, easy to hack password.

Small Business Risks and Precautions

According to many experts, smaller businesses are often at greatest risk of hacking from this kind of security threat. While they may not have invested in a fancy smart coffee maker or clever fridge, they do have wireless routers, PCs, digital cameras, webcams, security systems and more.

So, what can you do to help ensure that your office is as safe from device hackers as possible? Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind.

Password Protect Everything Properly

Something as simple as implementing a formal, companywide password policy is a great start to better security. That means that a default password should never be left that way, a new, secure password should be added and it should be changed every few weeks. All employees should make use of complex passwords, no more ‘Bobscat12’ or ‘Janesstuff’ just because it’s easy to remember at 9am when the caffeine hasn’t quite kicked in yet. And any Post-it password reminders should be binned too, especially if they are in sight of a camera.

Implement Software Updates

Yes, it’s a pain, but it is essential to keep the software for your computer network, servers, laptops, desktops, network switches, wireless routers and any other devices up-to-date with the latest manufacturer security updates at all times.

Practice Home Security

It’s becoming more commonplace for people to do at least some of their work at home, and that is especially true for many small businesses and startups.

It is therefore crucial to ensure that your employees take safe practices home with them. Hackers love to raid home computers to find the ones connected to business networks as that for them is often an almost effortless way to steal a password and access the business’ network in minutes.

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